Accident greets SRT plan to improve tracks

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN - A collision between an express train and a car on Thursday in this central province has dampened plans by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to launch a new project to improve the southern line.

Train No.43 from Bangkok to Surat Thani with a full list of passengers slammed into a new car at 2pm in Muang district. No one was hurt in the accident, but the front of the car was severely damaged.

Nirand Charoenpong, the car owner, told Pol Lt Suranand Meephan of Muang police station that he and two other members of his family were leaving a hotel for Bangkok and crossed the railway without realising that the express sprinter train was approaching.

The accident took place as there was no signal to alert drivers and no barrier at the railway crossing, about 200 metres north of Thung Mamao station, in Muang district, he said.

Accidents at crossings with no barriers are one of the main problems facing the SRT. The agency does not install barriers at most local roads.

Over the past six years, 887 accidents have been reported at railway crossings, with 979 people injured and 297 killed, according to the agency.

The railway lines stretch more than 4,000 kilometres across the country but there are only 1,938 authorised crossings, not all of them fully equipped with safety signals. There were also 562 unauthorised crossings.

The latest accident came as SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan revealed a plan to speed up improvements to the southern tracks.

Mr Prapas and other officials will survey the line from Hua Hin station to Padang Besar station in Sadao district of Songkhla to wrap up the plan and find contractors within this month.

The inspection was to study risk areas for trains and areas that needed to be closed for major overhaul, he added.

The SRT will spend 6 billion baht on the project, divided into six contracts, he said.

The plan will make the line safer and allow trains to run faster than today's 25 kilometres per hour in some areas due to ageing tracks, he added.

The agency closed the northern line from Uttaradit to Chiang Mai provinces last year after the tracks were plagued by accidents.

The southern line is its next target, but Mr Prapas said whether whole or partial sectors will be closed is still undecided.

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Writer: Chaiwat Satyaem and Amornrat Mahitthirook